The Critical Role Of The Realtor In The Real Estate Transaction

Many Buyers and Sellers of real estate properties are not aware of the true value that a professional Realtor provides during the process of a real estate transaction. Many people, in fact, are not aware of the expertise, professional knowledge, and just plain hard work that goes into making a successful real estate transaction a reality.

There are numerous essential steps in a real estate transaction that are provided by the Realtor and the support staff in the Realtors office. Traditionally these have been viewed simply as part of a Realtor’s responsibilities to the client. But, understand one important fact, without the assistance, knowledge and experience that a professional Realtor brings to the table, the transaction could easily be placed in jeopardy.

Listed below are 112 various activities that are typically found in the process of buying or selling a real estate property. These actions are some of the necessary steps towards a successful real estate transaction and are normally provided by a full-service real estate brokerage in exchange for their sales commission. Do you want to know more about real estate sales commissions? Read our blog about commissions and other fees. Depending on the transaction, some of these steps may take minutes, hours, or even days to complete, while some may not be required.


The list is by no means an attempt to be a complete list of services, as these can vary with each transaction. Some transactions may not require every step listed. However, given the unexpected complications that can arise, it’s far better to know about some of these steps and then be able to make an intelligent and informed decision on which ones may impact your real estate transaction or not.

The Realtor Commitment

The professional commitment of a Realtor is to ensure that a seller and a buyer are brought together in an agreement that provides each with a transaction that is fair and equitable. After all, to have a good deal it must be good for both sides, otherwise you do not have a good deal, the motivation is easy to understand.

Variety of Choices

There are a variety of real estate brokerage business models available in today’s real estate industry – full service, limited service, fee for service or other service models. This affords consumers with a greater range of options than ever before. No matter which option they choose, homeowners should understand exactly what services will, or will not be provided by their choice of a Realtor/brokerage firm before signing a Listing Agreement or otherwise engaging the services of a Realtor. 

Why Use A Realtor

Realtors serve their customers with the level of skill, knowledge and attention to detail required in today’s real estate transaction. The continual training provided to Realtors underscores the importance of having help and guidance from someone who fully understands the process of buying and or selling a property in todays market. Realtor associations offer a wealth of training courses to their member Realtors to help them deal with a market that is constantly changing because of economic and political influences of today’s world. For peace of mind, ensure that the individual seeking to represent you in your real estate transaction is not just a real estate licensee, but also a Realtor who is genuinely committed to their profession. 

Pre-Listing Activities

  1. Make appointment with seller for listing presentation.
  2. Send seller a written or e-mail confirmation of listing appointment and call to confirm.
  3. Review pre-appointment questions.
  4. Research all comparable currently listed properties.
  5. Research sales activity for comparable properties in the past year.
  6. Obtain copy of subdivision plat/complex lay-out.
  7. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.
  8. Research and verify legal description.
  9. Research property’s land use coding and deed restrictions.
  10. Research property’s current use and zoning.
  11. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.
  12. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.
  13. Compile and assemble formal file on property.

Listing Appointment Presentation

  1. Give seller an overview of current market conditions and projections.
  2. Review agent’s and company’s credentials and accomplishments in the market.
  3. Present company’s profile and position or niche in the marketplace.
  4. Offer pricing strategy based on professional judgment and interpretation of current market conditions.
  5. Discuss goals with seller to market effectively.
  6. Explain market power and benefits of Exclusive Listing.
  7. Explain the work the brokerage and agent do behind the scenes and agent’s availability onweekends.
  8. Explain agent’s role in taking calls to screen for qualified buyers and protect seller from curiosity
  9. Present and discuss strategic master marketing plan.
  10. Review and explain all clauses in Listing Contract and Addendum and obtain seller’s signature.

Once Property Is Under Listing Agreement

  1. Review current title information.
  2. Measure overall and “under roof” square footage.
  3. Measure interior room sizes.
  4. Confirm lot size via owner’s copy of certified survey, if available.
  5. Note any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.
  6. Obtain house plans, if applicable and available.
  7. Review house plans and make copy.
  8. Order plat map for retention in property’s listing file.
  9. Identify Homeowner Association manager if applicable.
  10. Verify Homeowner Association Fees with manager – mandatory or optional and current annual fee.
  11. Order copy of Homeowner Association bylaws, if applicable.
  12. Calculate average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.
  13. Research and verify septic tank system.
  14. Water System: Calculate average water fees or rates from last 12 months of bills.
  15. Well water: Confirm well status, depth and output from Well Report.
  16. Verify security system, if there is one.
  17. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.
  18. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances withSale.”
  19. Compile list of completed repairs and maintenance items.
  20. Verify if property has rental involved. If so:
  21. Make copies of all leases for retention in listing file.
  22. Verify all rents and deposits.
  23. Inform tenants of listing and discuss how showings will be handled.
  24. Arrange for installation of yard sign(s).
  25. Assist seller with completion of Seller’s Disclosure form.
  1. Load listing into transaction management software program.
  2. Take additional photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers.
  3. Discuss efficacy of panoramic/virtual tour photography.

Marketing the Listing

  1. Create print and Internet ads with seller’s input.
  2. Coordinate showings with owners, tenants, and other Realtors. Return all calls – weekends included.
  3. Generate e-mail to Master Realtor list
  4. Post listing on various Facebook, Point 2, Instagram, etc.
  5. Review pricing regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price,conditions and availability.
  6. Upload listing to company and agent Internet site, if applicable.
  7. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.
  8. Submit ads to company’s participating Internet real estate sites.
  9. Price changes conveyed promptly to all Internet groups.
  10. Place regular update calls / emails to seller to discuss marketing and pricing.
  11. Promptly enter price changes in MLS listing database.

The Offer and Contract

  1. Receive and review all Offer to Purchase contracts submitted by buyers or buyers’
  2. Counsel seller on offers. Explain merits and weakness of each component of each offer.
  3. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyer’s qualifications and discuss offer.
  4. Deliver Seller’s Disclosure to buyer’s agent or buyer upon request and prior to offer if possible.
  5. Confirm buyer is qualified
  6. Negotiate all offers on seller’s behalf, setting time limit for loan approval and closing date.
  7. Prepare and convey any counter offers, acceptance or amendments to buyer’s agent.
  8. Send copies of contract and all addendums to closing attorney or title company.
  9. When Offer to Purchase Contract is accepted and signed by seller, deliver to buyer’s agent.
  10. Record and promptly deposit buyer’s earnest money in escrow account.
  11. Disseminate “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions” as seller requests.
  12. Deliver copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase contract to seller.
  13. Fax/deliver copies of Offer to Purchase contract to Selling Agent.
  14. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.
  15. Advise seller in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing.
  16. Change status to “Sale Pending / Under contract.”
  17. Update MLS and transaction management program to show “Sale Pending.”.
  18. Deliver unrecorded property information to buyer.
  19. Order septic system inspection, if applicable.
  20. Receive and review septic system report and assess any possible impact on sale.
  21. Deliver copy of septic system inspection report lender and buyer.
  22. Deliver Well Flow Test Report copies to lender and buyer and property listing file.
  23. Verify termite inspection ordered.
  24. Verify mold inspection ordered, if required.

Home Inspection

  1. Coordinate buyer’s professional home inspection with seller.
  2. Review home inspector’s report.
  3. Recommend or assist seller with identifying trustworthy contractors to perform any required repairs.
  4. Negotiate payment and oversee completion of all required repairs on seller’s behalf, if needed.

Closing Preparations and Duties

  1. Contract is signed by all parties.
  2. Coordinate closing process with buyer’s agent and lender.
  3. Update closing forms and files.
  4. Ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.
  5. Select location where closing will be held.
  6. Confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.
  7. Assist in solving any title problems (boundary disputes, easements, etc) or in obtaining Death Certificates.
  8. Work with buyer’s agent in scheduling and conducting buyer’s final walk-through prior to closing.
  9. Research all tax, Homeowner Association, utility and other applicable prorations.
  10. Request final closing figures from closing agent (attorney or title company)
  11. Receive and carefully review closing figures to ensure accuracy of preparation.
  12. Forward verified closing figures to buyer’s agent.
  13. Request copy of closing documents from closing agent.
  14. Review all closing documents carefully for errors.
  15. Forward closing documents to absentee seller as requested.
  16. Review documents with closing agent (attorney).
  17. Provide earnest money deposit check from escrow account to closing agent.
  18. Coordinate this closing with seller’s next purchase and resolve any timing problems.
  19. Have a “no surprises” closing so that seller receives their net proceeds check at closing.
  20. Change status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker and agent’s ID numbers, etc.

Follow Up After Closing

– Attempt to clarify and resolve any conflicts about repairs if buyer is not satisfied.
– Respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information required from office files.

Do you have any questions about this article or costa rica real estate? Feel free to contact us. 

What is a real estate sales /purchase agreement (SPA) and when is it needed?

Who writes up this purchase agreement? What should be in this contract? And is it legally binding?

A real estate sales/ purchase agreement is the contract where the seller gives the buyer the exclusive right to purchase a specific piece of property. The contract stipulates all the details accepted by both parties on the property transaction and make it legally binding.

The language

Although the official language in Costa Rica is Spanish, this legal document doesn’t necessarily have to be in Spanish. Many of the “Sales and Purchase Agreements” these days are in English especially with the large volume of newcomers to Costa Rica being from the USA, Canada and Europe, where the international language of business is English.

Legally binding

To make a real estate purchase option in Costa Rica legally binding, it’s recommended that a Costa Rican lawyer who is a “notary of the Public” ( one of the highest designation for lawyers in Costa Rica) writes up the agreement. Doing this will guarantee that the agreement is legally binding; and also there will be earnest /deposit money involved, which needs to be protected. The “notary public” can include the necessary text for any of the parties, to present the document to the National Registry, to make it legally binding (when the other party doesn’t comply with what’s promised)

Different names

A real estate purchase option can have many different names, depending on the language and who writes it up:

– Sales / Purchase agreement (SPA)   (Most Common in Name in Costa Rica)
– Option to purchase sale agreement
– Buy Sell agreement
– Property purchase agreement
– Reciprocal promise to buy and sell
– Letter of intent 

The Content

A real estate purchase option in Costa Rica usually carries the following content:

– Names and legal information of the seller and the buyer
– Legal Description of the Property that is Registered in the National Registry
– The Property Survey Map / Official Plano
– The Reciprocal Promise (what do they promise)
– Earnest Money Deposit and Payment Schedule – how much, where and when
– Earnest Money Escrow Agreement – who gets what, if there is a problem
– Liens and Encumbrances – making sure there are none, or what to do when there are any
– Property Survey – this allows the buyer to hire a surveyor to check property lines
– Home Inspection – this allows the buyer to hire a home inspection, specific details
– Risk of Loss or Damage – who is responsible for the property until closing
– Property Taxes and Utilities – which documents should be provided by the seller at closing
– Real Estate Commission – who pays the real estate commission and when.
(Read our previous blog for more information about real estate commissions and fees)
– Closing Costs – who pays the legal costs for doing the transaction and the registrations in the National Registry
– Arbitration Agreement – this describes what happens in case of a disagreement before closing
– Contractual Address for the Parties – where can parties be notified
– Public Instrument and Translation – this describes what happens in case the agreement is written in another language than Spanish.
– Before you sign a real estate purchase option in Costa Rica, be sure to get professional advice from a lawyer who represents YOU.

Do you want more information or do you have any questions? Contact us.

For more information about the process of buying or selling a property in Costa Rica, we recommend reading our previous blogs: “Buying a property in Costa Rica – how long does it take to complete?” or What you should look for when buying property in Costa Rica.

Buying a Property in Costa Rica – How Long Does It Take to Complete?

The process for finding and purchasing a property in Costa Rica can be a little longer than you may be accustomed to— especially when beginning your search from outside of the country. These days that search usually begins by searching the internet to see what is available and the price points for the different types of property in Costa Rica. If you are at this point, then you probably have heard from someone or seen something on social media about the possible destinations within Costa Rica. Connecting with a professional real estate agent is another way to determine what is available in the part of Costa Rica you may be interested in. This is probably the best way to discover what properties are available and in the price range you have established for yourself. The relationship you build with your real estate agent will allow you to obtain all the information you need to decide what is best for YOU! 

Choosing your Real Estate Agent (1-30 days)

There doesn’t appear to be a ‘hard and fast method’ for choosing an agent. We highly recommend spending time researching the different agencies in the region. Because a realtor plays a critical role in a real estate transaction. Read more about the realtor’s role in our previous blog. It is very important that buyers can trust their real estate agent, so we recommend vetting anyone you are looking to establish a relationship with to ensure that they are diligent, competent and honest. Ask for references from friends, neighbors, or others you’ve met and like in the area. Look to hire someone local who has intimate knowledge of the area in which you want to buy property in Costa Rica. Here are some questions to ask:

How long have you been in the business and in Costa Rica?
Is real estate your full-time job?

Is the Real Estate company and Broker licensed with the country’s authorities?
Can I please see some of your references?

Researching Potential Houses and Properties (3 weeks)

Thanks to the many uses of the internet, the process of searching for property in Costa Rica has become much more streamlined. With websites such as buyers can often create a short list of properties they are interested in.

Because there is no official MLS in Costa Rica, it is difficult to search in the entire country, and even somewhat difficult to search the local area you are interested in. Real estate companies with recognizable brand names like C21, will have a large majority of the listings in the region on their websites. Our goal is to keep up-to-date on all the properties that are currently available in the area at all times.

With a good realtor, you should be able to give them your search parameters and obtain property portfolios and refined suggestions, better than what you might have received by searching on your own. But first, it is a good idea to spend time breaking up your housing criteria into needs, wants and desires. Find out what you can’t live without (your needs), what amenities might be nice to have (your wants), and what amenities would be absolutely wonderful if you can find them (your desires).  Spend time with yourself and your family doing research and discussing options. Be prepared to revise your criteria after learning what’s available on the market and within your budget. You may already know what you want from previous experience. This is where a good realtor comes into play. They can help you to discover everything that is valuable to you about the area and the current real estate market.

Find a house and make an offer (time frame varies)

After your initial meeting with a realtor, you will receive a number of listings that meet your criteria. If you are not in the country, now is the time to start planning your trip to Costa Rica in order to view properties. It is best to come to Costa Rica, as soon as you find a few options that look interesting; especially if you see something that you might really love. Buyers are visiting our region of Costa Rica all throughout the year and well-priced or sought-after listings are often sold within a few months.

Once a buyer finds a property that they really love, the process moves more quickly. A “Letter of Intent / Offer to Purchase” is written and signed by the Buyer, and the Realtor will present the offer to the Seller. At this point, the Seller has three options: accept, reject or counter. Things that are often negotiated are the closing timeframe, closing costs, the results of inspections, and, of course, the price.

Opening an escrow account in Costa Rica is a very important and necessary step when it comes to moving funds into the country. Costa Rica is a complaint country when it comes to the world’s financial transparency laws, and opening an escrow account guarantees the transfer of funds without delays or further scrutiny. It is also a key component and clause in the “Sales and Purchase Agreement”, which is signed after the “Letter of Intent / Offer to Purchase” has been negotiated and agreed upon. 

Opening an escrow account has special paperwork requirement that involves a detailed procedure that your trusted agent can help you prepare for prior to this stage. To complete the “Sales and Purchase Agreement,” the negotiated 10% deposit stipulated in the agreement is made into this escrow account. The balance of funds, due on the day of closing, can also be forwarded through the escrow account.

Completing the due diligence process (30 – 45 days)

Due diligence is a mandatory component of the “Sales and Purchase” agreement and is performed on any property prior to closing the sale. The purpose of the due diligence process is to do a thorough inspection of a property, both physically and through clarification of registered ownership documents at the Costa Rican Registro Nacional. In a home sale, this will include plumbing, electrical, foundation, and roof integrity, to name a few. On an undeveloped property, you will want to get a soil test, check for water, check if utilities are set up, and guarantee that you can easily get a construction permit. All types of properties (both homes and land purchases) require boundary verifications to be completed.

A home inspection typically takes a few hours. However, getting the inspector to the property can take a few days. Most real estate agents can recommend an inspector with whom they work frequently and trust with their clients. It is up to you to make sure that you choose a realtor who you can trust; who will set you up with the right relationships to make your Costa Rica property purchase a wonderful success.

The due diligence process will also include ensuring that detailed research on the corporation holding the property is verified and that the corporate structure does not have financial or legal encumbrances that could hinder the sale.

Closing the purchase (1 week)

Once due diligence is accepted, the rest of the money is deposited into escrow. Roughly a week later (5 business days) both parties will meet at the lawyer’s office to sign the final documents and the purchase can close.  If for some reason you cannot be in the country to sign the legal documents; you can grant “Special Power of Attorney” for someone to sign in your place. Realtors and lawyers frequently perform these roles.

Congratulations!  You are now the proud title holder of your own piece of paradise in Costa Rica!!

Do you have any questions about properties & homes for sale? Feel free to contact us. 

For more information about the process of buying or selling a property in Costa Rica, we recommend reading our previous blog

How to Ensure Your Retirement in Paradise Is All You Dreamed It Would be

Is Costa Rica your retirement goal? Are you tired of the cold weather and the hectic pace of city life, and can’t wait to make that move to the warm, tropical paradise that you’ve been dreaming about for many years? Or on the other hand, maybe you just moved here and want to make sure you continue to enjoy your new life in the sun. Whatever your situation is, you will want to avoid some of the challenges that may come up when living in another culture. Here are a few tips.


Before you buy a ticket, check to see if you need a tourist visa; U.S. and Canadian citizens don’t, but some other nationalities do.


Costa Rica laws say that visitors must have a paid, reserved way to leave the country before entering, and most airlines won’t allow you to board the flight if you don’t have a return ticket or proof of onward travel. You don’t want to arrive at the airport and be refused to board.  Costa Rican Customs has made the airlines ensure that you are legal, before you board their planes. So, always have proof of onward travel with you, whether it is a return flight to where you came from or to another country outside of Costa Rica. 


Make sure your passport is up to date and doesn’t expire within six months of your arrival date; holders of passports that expire within that time frame may be denied entry. Costa Rica Immigration will check your passport’s expiration date upon arrival and can refuse to allow you to enter the country. When that happens, the only option is to turn around and board the next flight back to your country of origin.


Tourists entering Costa Rica, even those who intend to stay, are given up to a 90-day tourist Visa, sometimes less. Do NOT overstay the amount of time designated in the visa stamp in your passport. An option if you plan to stay longer would be to leave the country for at least a few days, then return and you will be allowed another 90-day visa.


Bring enough money to last for a while. If you bring cash, declare it; up to $10,000 USD is allowed without question or penalty.  You can bring more than $10,000, but you will have to show the authorities at immigration where it came from, bank account statements etc. and explain why you are bringing it. It can be for daily expenses, buying furniture, a car, etc. 

Traveler’s checks are NOT a good idea. Due to fraudulent activities in the past, no one will accept them. And, banks will put a week’s long hold on them before allowing the bearer to receive the cash. I have had banks simply refuse to take them!

Most major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country, but make sure your card issuers know in advance that you will be using them in Costa Rica. Nothing can make paradise more uncomfortable than having your credit card account frozen because of suspicion of fraud.

Pre-arrange your credit card payments ahead of time. That way you can use your credit (or debit) card for most of your payments.

As a non-resident, you’re allowed to have a simplified Costa Rican bank account with a maximum deposit of $1,000/month. You can use this account to pay utilities and other local payments. With a corporation, you are allowed to make larger deposits, etc. 

It is wise to plan ahead, as you do not want to get stuck in Costa Rica without having access to money. ATM machines are everywhere, but make sure your bank knows you will be using the card outside your home country. Without a ready method of obtaining cash, your retirement paradise starts becoming uncomfortable very quickly. ATM withdrawals, depending on your bank charges, are often the best way to access cash.  ATMs do have daily limits on how much you can withdraw, so learn which ones work best in your area, and plan around that. Most will give you $300; but some will give $500, in one attempt. Sometimes you can wait an hour or so and do it again… depending on the machine. 


We recommend “Costa Ballena” It’s located just an hour south of the popular beach town of Manuel Antonio and Quepos. It’s also known as the “Whale Coast”. Costa Ballena is slowly becoming famous for its pristine beaches and rolling green mountains that teem with wildlife, and a slower pace of life. Read our previous blog more information about the ballena coast.


If you are shipping your household good here in a container, you don’t want that container or its contents to be held up in Costa Rican customs. To avoid this ensure that you send your container with a complete and very detailed inventory.

It happens quite often that the items on the bill of lading don’t match the inventory made by the customs officer; a bed, for example, stops being a single article when disassembled by your movers, so list all pieces separately. If you don’t, they may hold your complete shipment. And list the items with used values. Sometimes you can end up paying extra import duties if you list them as NEW. The mindset is that everything you put in the container is USED!

Really ask around and think about what you may ‘really” need to live in Costa Rica…. figure that out, and yo may end up shipping far less than you first thought! 


Knowing some Spanish will make a huge difference when dealing with the local culture and the quality of your life here. You probably know more Spanish words than you realize, so you may already have a head start. But, if you want to adapt and have a good relationship with your new country, make the effort to learn at least one new Spanish word a day. There are some great Apps that you can download on your smartphone or tablet that can assist when communication is necessary.  Remember, you can learn another language no matter what your age is, and you do not have to be worried if it is not perfect. The locals (Ticos) will always appreciate your efforts to communicate in their native language and will help you.

Costa Rica is a beautiful and inviting place and has some of the most desirable weather in the world. This feature and the benefits that come with it, do require some adaptation on your part. Some advice; don’t make the error of thinking that everything you are used to where you came from will be the same. Costa Rica, although NOT a third world country, is still in many ways a developing nation. Be prepared for the differences and hurdles of living here, for at times it can be a little challenging! And do not worry, it is never that bad, and remember one thing, it was your decision to leave that hectic, ordered existence behind.

A very wise idea is to keep in mind that the country, its people and the culture will not, and do not, have to adapt to you; you must be open to adapting to them.

Bottom line do your homework and careful planning before you come and when you get here your piece of paradise will be everything you dreamed of. Always remember to breathe in the Pura Vida that Costa Rica is famous and known for.

For questions about this article or costa rica real estate contact one of our relocation specialists at C21 Ballena Properties!

About Our Team And Office

CENTURY 21 Ballena Properties is a “Centurion Award Winner” and is the top producing office for CENTURY 21 in Central America. 

In 2014, the entrepreneurial spirit of a select group of friends and associates set out to use their years of real estate experience, accumulated knowledge and earned credibility to open a new Century 21 office serving the Southern Ballena Coast and beyond. Although the company is relatively new, these associates and the broker have many years of combined experience in Costa Rican real estate. In four short years, this team of dedicated professionals have led the charge to be the best in their chosen field and continue to use the guiding principle of “ethical practises” and “customer service” as their key to success. 

In 2018 CENTURY 21 Ballena Properties was awarded the much-coveted designation of “Certified Luxury Home Specialists” for CENTURY 21 Fine Homes & Estates®. Attaining this designation was significant as it required extraordinary dedication from our associates to meet the needs of both our sellers and buyers. As Certified Luxury Specialists worldwide we are easily able to serve our high-end clientele looking to either sell or to buy exceptional properties located on the Ballena Coast. 

During the Century 21 Conference which took place March 18-22, 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. the CENTURY 21 Ballena Properties team received three awards: #1 – Best Office in Central America, #2 – Best Team in Central America, and #3 – Top Producer Award to team member Marcel van Willigen.

Looking Ahead and Moving Forward 

The real estate market on the Ballena Coast in Costa Rica (DominicalUvitaOjochalJaco) has reached a point of stability. Read our previous blog for more information about the Ballena Coast. The team at Century 21 Ballena Properties have concluded that sellers and buyers are now relatively equally numbered, and we expect this to continue. In looking ahead, sales and new property listings for 2019 are well on track to setting the stage for yet another banner year.

We are pleased to share with our clients, both sellers and buyers, some of our strategies that we have had tremendous success and experience with.

Number One is listening and serving our customer’s needs, ethically and responsibly. More and more new clients are seeking the professional services offered by our team due to our dedication of giving 121% to our buyers and sellers. Because of this, we are having huge successes selling the Century 21 real estate listings in our diverse inventory of exceptional properties. This is due in large part to our visible and diverse marketing, lead generation strategies, incredible web presence with an easily searchable database, advertising in local publications, the utilization of all the Social Media platforms, continuous networking and dedicated community involvement. 

Number Two is our reach: CENTURY 21 Ballena Properties operates under the umbrella Century 21 Global, which is a proven leader in providing successful marketing strategies and global connectivity to the more than 9200 independent offices in 78 countries worldwide. A truly powerful advantage in the current market. 

Another Unique feature of the Century 21 Ballena Properties business model is the proven capability to provide custom home construction services along with a complete range of professional services to assist in building a client’s dream home through our sister company, Ballena Homes LLC.

We are here to serve you, our customer…..

Do you have questions about this article or real estate in Costa Rica? Feel free to contact us

Century 21 Ballena Properties Receives International Awards

Century 21 Ballena Properties Receives International Awards

In 2014, the entrepreneurial spirit of a select group of friends and associates set out to use their years of real estate experience, accumulated knowledge and earned credibility to open a new Century 21 office serving the Southern Ballena Coast and beyond. In four short years, this team of dedicated professionals have led the charge to be the best in their chosen field and continue to use the guiding principle of “ethical practises” and “customer service” as their key to success.

On March 18-22, 2019, the Realogy Global Exchange and Century 21 Conference was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This Global Conference was the largest the Industry has ever seen and was attended by 10,000 plus affiliated brokers and agents from around the world. During the awards portion of the conference, the Ballena Properties team received three awards for:

#1 – Best Office in Central America for 2018  (Accumulated Sales)
#2 – Best Team in Central America for 2018  (Accumulated Team Sales)
#3 – Top Producing Sales Agent in Central America for 2018  (Marcel Van Willigen)

What an outstanding recognition of such a wonderful team and their outstanding efforts in 2018. We are proud to be part of the growth in Costa Rica as well as being so very thankful for our excellent customers and partners!” said Michael Kennedy, one of the principals of Century 21 Ballena Properties.

About Century 21 Ballena Properties

Century 21 is a leader in providing successful marketing strategies and global connectivity to the more than 9200 independent offices in 78 countries worldwide. The business assists buyers and sellers of homes in the Southern Ballena Coast area of Costa Rica and also provides custom home construction services and a complete range of professional services to assist in building the home of their customer’s dreams.

The Team of Century 21 Ballena Properties would like to express their gratitude to all our clients, our Real Estate Associates and our community for the continuous support.

Do you have questions about this article or Costa Rica real estate? Contact us.

Things Your Travel Agent Forgot To Tell You

Things that will ensure you have a most wonderful time exploring or learning about our beautiful little country!

These are the answers to questions that I get asked all the time, and thought I would address them here, to ensure you have all the information to make sure your time spent in Costa Rica is fabulous!

The water here IS safe to drink! Exceptions may be in VERY remote or rural areas, but unless you are way out in the boonies, you’re OK.  Now if you are one of those with a seriously sensitive tummy… well then, perhaps bottled water would be recommended. Most water is spring water, and a lot of places it is chlorinated.

You do NOT need typhoid, malaria or any other shots when you visit Costa Rica. That is just silly, but I constantly meet folks who get a bunch of inoculations before visiting. It is NOT necessary to get all the shots!!

DO be a little bit concerned about Dengue Fever/ Zika!  Do not go bonkers. Just use spray whenever you go into populated areas … the mosquito has to bite a person with dengue, and then bite you, for you to possibly get the disease.  If you’re nervous… use bug spray. I do, but only because I hate getting bitten by any bug … not because of dengue. The mosquitos that carry dengue are day time biters, and in the dry / High season, there are very few of them.  Insect repellant is expensive in Costa Rica, so it is wise to bring it from home.

We are less than ten degrees North of the Equator, so bring sunscreen and use it.. Sunscreen is very expensive here in CR, so bring it from home, too.

If you rent a car here, remember to download WAZE before coming to CR, it is the best gps system for getting around Costa Rica! It will get you everywhere!

Drinking and driving is NOT LEGAL!  Passengers can drink and have open liquor.  The Police force now has breathalyzers!   Don’t drink and drive!  Drive defensively at all times!   If you have an accident here, you MUST remain at the site without moving the vehicles until BOTH the police AND the insurance agent show up.

Distances here are weird. Folks look at a map and say things like, “We can drive that in an hour, honey!”. No… you can’t.  We have lots of things that make it take longer!  A tractor on the road, a slow-moving farm truck! All the things that make our country great.  Slow down and enjoy the scenery!  Waze will give you pretty exact travel time to your destination.

  “Oh, they accept dollars and credit cards everywhere in Costa Rica”. 
Hotels and nearly all restaurants take credit cards of course, and many will accept dollars, but there are MANY places where nothing is accepted except the colón. The good news is that CR is full of ATM’s where you can use your bank card to get some colones at the proper exchange rate.  NO place, not even a bank, will accept traveler’s checks!

Use your ATM card to get cash funds in colones. You are allowed $100 – $300 per day, as a withdrawal at most Banks (depending on the ATM machine and bank).  Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Popular are the best for this.  I believe Costa Rica is about the ONLY country that does not extort money when you exchange foreign currencies. There are exceptions (like at the San Jose airport!), but in general, you will be treated fairly and get a good exchange rate!

Finally, and VERY important, TELL YOUR BANK and your credit card companies that you are going to CR. Many will block your credit cards, especially for cash withdrawals, if you miss this important step. Set a realistic daily withdrawal limit that fits your needs.  Primarily this is a cash-based society…. so bring US $ and exchange at any Banco National or Banco De Costa Rica.  You will get a good exchange rate. I have traveled extensively and Costa Rica is the only place I know where you will not get screwed exchanging dollars for colones… even at hotels. 

When renting a car here, LARGE deposits get pre-authorized on your credit card. This freezes your available funds. Organize your credit and cash needs before you come. If your credit card covers rental car insurance, you only need to purchase the mandatory insurance.   

Tipping: Check your bills at restaurants,  to see if they have added one or two tax items listed at the bottom of your receipt. One is the sales tax on food – the IVI; and the other will be for the country wide 10% service / tip charge.  Not every place charges it automatically. If there is only one (the IVI) then, you will need to leave the entire tip. If there are two, you can choose to leave more tip, depending on service received. DO NOT OVER TIP!

Don’t carry your passport if you go to the beach or are walking. You can have a copy made of your front (picture) page and the entry stamp. The police here are cordial to tourists and most of the time they will accept that as a valid ID.  I have had clients who were fined $250 for not having their passport and Drivers License with them while driving.  Just recently, Jan 2019, I spoke with a local rental car company who has had the plates taken off two cars, by the police; because drivers could not produce their Driver’s license and passport!  They told me it is a serious deal, and will take them many months to get the plates back, and be able to rent the cars! Save yourself and the company, the hassle and always have your documents with you. 

If you leave the car, take them with you, or hide them in the car – in the spare tire hole, if there is one; or tucked into the springs under seat, or locked in the glove box, etc.  Anywhere it will take time for a thief to look for them!  They are looking for fast, snatch and grab!  They can’t take the time to search your car for your things.   Use your ‘spidey” senses, just like you would at home!

Relax!  Be polite! Enjoy this wonderful country and remember always that you are a guest.  Things are different here, and not always the way you want them. 

Foreign travel IS foreign; and the Costa Rican culture is wonderful, but it can be different from your home country.

Costa Ricans are a gentle people, and do not do well with “bravado”!   The minute you raise your voice, the Ticos shut down!  You will get nowhere!
Stay calm, keep your voice normal and all things will be resolved! 

You can eat the food here; EVERYWHERE! It is quite good and some of the best spots are the little roadside restaurants and ‘sodas’. There is often some little old abuelita (grandmother) working in the kitchen and she likely makes a truly excellent meal.  

With this information in your pocket, now you can relax and have a fabulous time exploring this beautiful country and its gentle people! 

HAVE FUN!  Contact us if you have any other questions, we are more than happy to share what we know!

The team at C21 Ballena Properties

Marcel, Bill, Karen and Darrel

Do you have questions about this article, or buying property in Costa Rica? Contact us!

2019 Report for South Pacific Region

Costa Rica real estate hit the big time with investors in 2018, growing significantly over previous years.  And, our South Pacific region of Costa Rica is likely to be even bigger in 2019. For a long time, the Central Valley area in Costa Rica that includes the capital, San Jose, has been at the top of expat lists as the best place to live in Costa Rica. But Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) tides appear to be shifting in Costa Rica and around the world, towards a future with a waterfront view or access. 

Knight Frank Global Waterfront Report estimates that in 2018, prime waterfront properties sold for an average of 40% more than comparable inland properties. And this shift has become quite evident for us.

In 2018, the team of agents at C21 Ballena Properties sold more than double the properties sold in 2017, between the same four agents. Our sales figures have also doubled over 2017, which was already a bigger year than 2016. And the way that this season has kicked off, we know that 2019 will be our busiest year yet.

Costa Rica’s Southern Zone has numerous ocean view properties available. And from what our clients are telling us, many of them do want the spectacular ocean view. However, many of these desirable properties are being rapidly sold!

Tourism grows significantly in 2018

The ICT report, released late 2018, tallied 333,475 international arrivals to Costa Rica in September and October of this year. That’s up more than 3,300 people from the 330,158 people who visited during those months in 2017.

The Juan Santamaria Airport expects close to 2.5 million travelers during this high season. Thirteen airlines have increased their frequencies during these months to both the Juan Santamaria Airport and the Liberia Airport in Guanacaste, among them, Air Canada, Air France, Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Southwest, United Airlines and American Airlines. The airport expects to close this year with the total traffic of 5 million people.

The importance of community in Costa Rica’s global image

The abundance of online information about Costa Rica has created international interest in the pura vida vibes of this nation.  Consumers today are generally looking for something more intangible: a sense of identification with a community. There are many online platforms for people to join and learn about Costa Rica and begin to create a sense of community. The Ballena Coast and Ojochal have strong community connections, with events and activities to meet neighbors and to create a realistic sense of community.

Costa Rica recognized internationally

For anyone who has visited both Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces, our Southern Zone region is far more spectacular in biodiversity and pristine landscapes, and we do not have water shortages here.  Resort tourists may love the Guanacaste region for its first world amenities, but anyone really looking to invest in a less-stressful and more joyful lifestyle, the South Pacific is the place to be in 2019.We can guarantee that every year, more and more travelers are finding us, off the beaten path; and this area will surely find its place on the global map soon.

What C21 Ballena Properties Can Do For You

Our C21 Ballena Properties office is proud to be the #1 producing office in Central America in 2018! 

We are very proud to be the recipient of this award; and to receive the designation of “Fine Homes & Estates”.  We are the only office in Central America to receive this designation!  Watch for our new website featuring the “Fine Homes & Estates” portfolio of properties…it is coming soon! This is in addition to our Century 21 Ballena Properties web portal, and our Century 21 Global portal. All featuring excellent properties of all kinds on the Sothern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Do you have questions about this article, or buying property in Costa Rica? Contact us!

Where, What is the “Ballena Coast”?

Pick up an old guidebook on Costa Rica, even from just a few years back, and you’ll read that the area known as “Costa Ballena” is difficult to access and offers little to travelers. Fast forward a few years and you’ll discover that this is no longer the case. Located just an hour south of the popular beach town of Manuel Antonio and Quepos; “Costa Ballena”, or Whale Coast, is slowly becoming famous for its pristine beaches and rolling green mountains that teem with wildlife, and a slower pace of life.


The Costa Ballena is a 65 kilometer stretch of coastline in Costa Rica’s south Pacific made up of three major towns: Dominical to the north, Ojochal and Palmar to the south, Uvita is in between; and Sierpe – one of the entrances to the Osa Peninsula- at the far south. Each town has a different feel, making the area fun to explore with a rental car. What these towns do have in common is a magnificent coastline and plenty of beautiful beaches. Another shared trait are the verdant green mountains that rise quickly from the ocean and the paved highway. Hidden in these hills are homes, vacation rentals, eco-lodges, bed and breakfasts, and upscale hotels, all with spectacular views.

The Towns of Costa Ballena 


At the north end of Costa Ballena is Dominical, a beautiful beach town where you can roll out of bed, walk to the beach, and not return until well into the night. Many expats and locals alike have made their home here in the hills above the town, offering incredible ocean and mountain views There are many restaurants on the main street and along a sandy palm-tree lined avenue on the beach you will find merchants who sell souvenirs and restaurants serve up quick bites alongside cold drinks. Stay for the sunset and you too will fall in love with this small town’s charm.


Roughly in the middle of the Costa Ballena is a village, marked by a hub of banks, restaurants, grocery stores, and offices near the main highway. Uvita is a town that offers much more than convenient commerce. Take one of the many dirt roads into the mountains and you will discover hidden homes and neighborhoods neatly tucked into the rainforest. From here, you will have breathtaking views of the famous whale tail, a giant sandbar shaped just like that of a whale’s tail.

On the coastal side is a charming local neighborhood named Bahía Ballena that boasts many beautiful beaches to enjoy, and on the north end is the Marino Ballena National park visited by many species of whales and dolphins from both hemispheres. Do you want to know more about Uvita? Read our blog on “living in Uvita, Costa Rica”. We offer beautiful gated communities in Uvita, and we have a broad inventory of uvita real estate. Contact us for more information. 


At the southern end of the Costa Ballena is a popular landing place for expats from the United States, Canada, and all over Europe. Ojochal has been recently awarded the BLUE FLAG insignia for its community involvement with the lives of the residents and the local environmental concerns. Ojochal has also become a culinary destination in Costa Rica. Maybe it’s the mixture of cultures or maybe it’s the plentiful tropical ingredients, but it is rare to find so many gourmet restaurants so close to one another—and in the land of rice and beans, of all places. In addition to great food, Ojochal also has its own magnificent ocean views, pristine swaths of jungle, and beautiful beaches. In the mountains above Ojochal are many expat homes, rental accommodations with stunning mountain and ocean views!


20 minutes south of Ojochal, sitting on the banks of the Terraba River, Palmar is at the intersection to the gateway to the Osa Peninsula and the very southern, Pacific part of Costa Rice.  Palmar is the center of commerce for the local residents, and the surrounding farming area. There are banks, typical restaurants, appliance stores, other types of stores, repair shops, grocery stores- a favorite one that has a huge veggie mart at the front. Shop where the locals shop, and get most of the things you need, at a better price!


45 minutes south of Ojochal, 15 minutes from Palmar Norte, is the fishing village of Sierpe.  A popular sport fishing and river tour destination, Sierpe is known as the gateway to the remarkably beautiful Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park. This area is considered one of the most biologically intense places with its raw and untamed natural beauty and incredible wildlife

Do you want to know more about the Costa Ballena real estate market? Read our 2019 Report for the South Pacific Region

For more information, and to help you find your “perfect” piece of paradise browse through our distinctive Costa Rica real estate inventory or contact us at C21 Ballena Properties!

Are you thinking of buying property in Costa Rica? Read our blog for more information about the process.    

 Do you have questions about this article, or buying property in Costa Rica? Reach out to us!

Why the Higher Cost of Living in Costa Rica Is Worth It..

Costa Rica has been an increasingly popular destination among tourists and expats for several decades. And, while it stands out heads above the rest for its abundance of untamed nature and the healthy lifestyle it offers, the cost of living in Costa Rica is not among its biggest selling points.

The cost of living in Costa Rica is the highest in Central America. Yet the number of tourists it draws each year and the hordes of expats who’ve chosen to call it home, has not dwindled, despite the rising costs.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into what’s really driving the cost of living in Costa Rica, and why so many North Americans and Europeans still think it’s totally worth it.

So, just how much higher is the cost of living in Costa Rica?

Like any other factor, the cost of living in Costa Rica can vary drastically from one area to the next. It also depends entirely on your lifestyle. Live in some relatively less touristy place and shop more like the locals, you can easily get by on $2000 or less per month for a family of two. On the other hand, if you decide to make your home in a newly renovated high-rise condo in the Central Valley, where you dine out every night and shop to your heart’s content, you could easily need double or even triple that amount of money to live.

Not everything is more expensive in Costa Rica.

For example, due to the inexpensive cost of labor, many services can be had for a very reasonable price tag. Domestic help, like a maid or cook, can be as low as $4 per hour. A Haircut will only set you back $10-20. Even the labor for auto repairs comes at an inexpensive rate. It’s the replacement parts that will set you back a pretty penny. Education in Costa Rica is affordable, as is the country’s health care (even at private facilities), which is of the highest quality. Property taxes are also low.

There are also a number of things that generally run about the same as their North American counterparts. Expenses in this category include utilities and services such as internet, cable, some cell phone plans, and electricity. However; using the “prepago” cell phone plan… you may only spend about $15.00 per month… depending on how much you use it or call North America.

You can expect to pay about the same for some for these as you would in North America; although, depending on your location, you may have no need for heating and/or air conditioning expenses. Rental Housing is also relatively inexpensive, with nice-size well-appointed accommodations ranging from $900 to $1800 per month.

However, as with all the above, it’s important to consider what you’re comparing these costs to. While much less on average than in the U.S., Canada, or Europe, individual budget items in Costa Rica can run significantly higher than in the rest of Central America.

What are Costa Rica’s big budget busters?

To answer this question, it’s important to consider a few important factors about the country. First of all, Costa Rica is a small country that must import a large number of the items people use for daily living. Add up the cost to get the items brought into the country, plus the hefty import taxes the government loves to tack on, and things like automobiles and appliances can become incredibly expensive. On a smaller scale, the same is true for everyday items like imported wines or brand name peanut butter. So, to save considerably on your household expenditures, avoid anything imported or shop at a ‘duty free zone”. The country’s relatively high utility costs are another big contributor to the higher cost of living in Costa Rica. They’re due to the monopoly held by government-run ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, or the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity). 

Any vehicles brought into the country carry an extremely high import tax. Yearly vehicle Registration “Marchamo” can be quite pricey as well, depending on the age, make and model of the car.

Gas in Costa Rica is expensive, which adds even more to the cost of owning a vehicle in Costa Rica. The poor conditions on many of Costa Rica’s roads, can create additional wear and tear on vehicles; which can create the need for more frequent mechanical work. The rough roads usually lead us to the most beautiful locations, so are worth the wear and tear.

What about food costs in Costa Rica?

This category varies quite a bit depending on what and where you eat. Dining out, can get expensive fast! That is, unless you dine at “sodas,” which are small, locally-run eating establishments. You can eat at local restaurants for $5 to $9 per person instead of the $15 to $20 you might expect to pay for a regular restaurant or chain franchise.

If you like to cook, your best bet is to shop at local markets or do business with street vendors. You can choose from a great variety of locally-grown produce, beans, rice, and meat for a fraction of what you’d pay at the big box supermarkets, which closely resemble and even trace their roots back to some well-known U.S. chains. At the local street markets, you can buy large pineapples for only $2. You can also get freshly baked bread much cheaper from the local bakeries. On average, you can save about 30% on your grocery bill by avoiding the supermarkets. You might expect great deals on fish and other seafood, but even these can get a little pricey, especially the further you get from the coast. 

Why pay more to live in Costa Rica?

That’s an easy question to answer. And, no, we’re not going to say that you get what you pay for. Although you do. The fact is that putting the cost of living in Costa Rica up against other Central American countries is hardly an “apples to apples” comparison. Sure, you can find cheaper places to live, some even awfully close by. But Costa Rica offers so much more.

In Costa Rica, you get a well-educated strong middle-class population who are friendly and welcoming to outsiders. You get political stability. You get some of the friendliest, helpful locals. And, dare we forget to mention, you get one of the most amazingly beautiful settings on the entire planet. Most importantly, though, you get choices.

With so many options available, in terms of housing, consumer goods, and services and amenities, even the climate you want to live in – there are over 40 micro climates to choose from; you can pick and choose what’s important to you!  The beauty of it is, you CAN choose! 

So; if this top expat destination is on your short list of countries you’re considering, don’t let the marginally higher cost of living in Costa Rica dissuade you.

We are here to answer your questions, share our personal experiences of living in Costa Rica, etc!

Do you have specific questions about real estate in Costa Rica? Feel free to contact us for more information or inquiries.